German Grand Prix 2018
In the land of the black-forests, it seems Ferrari is determined to paint the town red.
Imagine handing out a job-offer to a bright candidate only to clinch it from his hand to give it to another within a second of the offer being made?
That explains what Hockenheimring did to Valtteri Bottas, who clinched pole for barely a few seconds before Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel outdid the Mercedes driver’s stellar effort.
In doing so, Vettel ensured it would be a German’s superiority at the German Grand Prix.
Though Vettel clinched his 55th career-pole, Sebastian’s job is only half-done.
In registering a record-smashing lap-time at 1:11:212, Vettel put his Ferrari on top to claim pole for Sunday’s German Grand Prix, the penultimate race before the caravan stops for the mid-season break.
He’d be followed by Valtteri Bottas, sandwiching the two Ferrari’s, trailing local-hero by only two-tenths of a second, ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
But prior to the start of Saturday’s qualifying, there was but one question on everyone’s mind.
Would Prancing Horse flags be seen everywhere in the grandstands at Hockenheimring amid a realistic possibility that this might be the last race at a legendary track, that first opened in 1932?
But given Vettel’s imperious form in Q3, demonstrating superiority on those ultrasofts, the chosen compound for most on Sunday, there’s little doubt as to what lies ahead.
But that told, there was heartbreak for Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
After suffering a hydraulic failure mid-way into the qualifying run, Hamilton who aced the German Grand Prix when it was last held in 2016, had to bear with heartbreak.
Taking full advantage of his rival’s mechanical malfunction, Sebastian Vettel drove aggressively, setting faster middle and final sectors to demonstrate Ferrari’s true capability for Sunday.
As Max Verstappen starts his German Grand Prix challenge on fourth, six-tenths of a second behind Raikkonen on a track where he was on the podium in 2016- Kevin Magnussen put his Haas on a brilliant fifth, his best qualifying result thus far.
He’d be followed by teammate Grosjean, the first time that Haas have secured a P5-P6 run in 2018. The French driver would be followed by the two Renault’s of Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. for seventh and eighth respectively, with Charles Leclerc and Peres running in ninth and tenth, respectively.
But it wasn’t that only Hamilton suffered from the grave misfortune.
While Hamilton starts in the fourteenth place, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who topped the chart-times on Friday’s practice sessions would begin as a backmarker.
Following penalties attributed to the Australian in lines with the Renault powertrain fitted with third motor generator unit – kinetic (MGU-K), a third energy store and a third control electronics, it will be difficult for the ‘honey badger’ to gain significantly on the truncated track, that underwent changes in 2002.
Can Kimi do something special to help Ferrari’s chances?
While Vettel would be gearing up for a clean, pacey start at the front, it’ll be interesting to see what Raikkonen, criticised for being a slacker particularly at Grands Prix starts, do to fancy his chances of going one better over second-placed Bottas?
Should Ferrari continue their dominance as the Constructor’s leaders, it’s pivotal for Kimi to continue giving support to Sebastian, the current title leader, holding the edge over Hamilton by 8 points.
Should the ‘Iceman’ finish on the podium at Germany, on a track where he has outqualified Vettel in the previous run in 2016, it’ll solidify his claim to perhaps hope for another year at the Scuderia.
Hulkenberg should continue his consistent run
There being only 2 German drivers of 20 on the grid, it’ll be vital to note what Nico Hulkenberg, with a best-place finish of P6 at Bahrain, China and, Great Britain do?
Even as one hoped Lewis Hamilton, second at the British Grand Prix a fortnight ago, would return the favour; win at Hockenheim as Vettel won at the Briton’s home race, the best chance, for now, rests with his four-time world champion, Sebastian Vettel.
Should the Ferrari driver ace the 67-lap challenge, punctuated by an interesting 17 turns including the massively challenging hairpin bend at Turn 6, Ferrari will gain massively in their title hopes.
That said, what’ll play most on Vettel’s mind is that the last he won the German Grand Prix was in 2013.